Maryland Lawmakers Discuss Bill To Protect Gun Rights For Medical Marijuana Patients In Committee
by benny yang on Feb 09, 2023
Maryland lawmakers on Wednesday held a hearing on a bill to protect gun rights for medical marijuana patients in the state.
The House Judiciary Committee took up the legislation from Del. Robin Grammer (R) and four other GOP cosponsors days after a federal court declared that the federal ban prohibiting cannabis consumers from possessing firearms is unconstitutional.
That ruling is expected to be appealed, so it remains to be seen whether the federal ban will ultimately be rescinded. But in the interim, Maryland legislators are seeking to provide some additional level of protection at the state level.
“A person may not be denied the right to purchase, possess or carry a firearm under this title solely on the basis that the person is authorized to use medical cannabis” under state statute, the bill text says.
Grammer said at Wednesday’s hearing that the existing policy “puts average Marylanders in a bind,” and he said the legislation would resolve a disconnect where state law permits medical cannabis cardholders to carry firearms but blocks them from purchasing them.
“You can actually still obtain a permit to carry but you just can’t purchase a firearm,” the sponsor said. “If you have the [medical cannabis] card, you lose your rights. It’s not about the purchase or possession or use of cannabis—your status as a qualifying patient is what dooms you.”
He also referenced a memo from a former state attorney general, who he said suggested that one way “to clarify the issue was to reconcile the public safety article with the health general article section 13.3313, and that’s what this bill does.”
Grammer filed a more expansive version of the legislation last month that included several additional layers of protections, including preventing state agencies from inquiring about patient status and requiring firearm purchase forms to include language stipulating that lawful use of medical cannabis is not disqualifying.
That measure was originally scheduled for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee last week, but it was pulled and apparently replaced with the more narrowly tailored version.
Because the legislation is specifically focused on resolving the gun rights issue related to patient registration, that likely explains why it only covers medical cannabis patients, rather than take a more holistic approach to include adult-use consumers since Maryland legalized possession at the ballot last year and lawmakers recently introduced complementary legislation to regulate cannabis commerce.
The marijuana and gun rights issue has been addressed in several states, as well as federal courts and Congress.
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma deemed the federal ban unconstitutional last week, with the decision largely based on an interpretation of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which the justices generally created a higher standard for policies that seek to impose restrictions on gun rights.
This decision comes as the ban continues to be challenged in a separate federal court in a lawsuit that was raised by former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) and several medical cannabis patients.
Advocates have argued that the fight to end the federal ban for cannabis consumers isn’t not about expanding gun rights, per se. Rather, it’s a matter of constitutionality and public safety.
In 2020, ATF issued an advisory specifically targeting Michigan that requires gun sellers to conduct federal background checks on all unlicensed gun buyers because it said the state’s cannabis laws had enabled “habitual marijuana users” and other disqualified individuals to obtain firearms illegally.
Delaware’s Democratic governor vetoed a bill late last year meant to clarify that medical marijuana patients are not prohibited from buying, possessing or transferring firearms under state law.
Meanwhile, a GOP congressman recently filed a bill that seeks to allow medical cannabis patients to purchase and possess firearms. The legislation was also introduced in the 116th Congress but was not ultimately enacted.